Stem Cell Industry Puts Scotland in the Spotlight

December 2, 2006
BioPharm International, BioPharm International-12-02-2006, Volume 2006, Issue 7

The Scottish Stem Cell Network brings together the entire stem-cell community in Scotland.

Some of the most significant contributions to the life sciences in Scotland have been in the field of embryology and developmental biology, including the cloning of the first mammal, Dolly the sheep, ten years ago at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh. This research has provided a platform for pioneering developments in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine research. Scotland is home to some of the most advanced basic research and clinical facilities in the world and consistently attracts leading experts to the country to take advantage of its immense resources.

Scotland's success and international acclaim for its stem cell research can be attributed to several factors, including a skilled workforce, government support, and a top academic community. More medical research is conducted per capita in Scotland than anywhere else in Europe, and Edinburgh is at the forefront of stem cell research. The city is home to the University's Institute for Stem Cell Research (ISCR, www.iscr.ed.ac.uk), a designated MRC, a designated Medical Research Council center of excellence. Edinburgh also has one of the largest concentrations of clinical scientists and researchers, whose stem cell research activities in Edinburgh are supported by major infrastructure investments.

Most recently, the Center for Regenerative Medicine was established at the new $1-billion Center for Biomedical Research (www.scottish-enterprise.com/biomedicalcentre) in Edinburgh, encompassing a state-of the-art teaching hospital, the University of Edinburgh's world-renowned medical school and research institutes, and a 100-acre science park development. Professor Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep, has been appointed to lead this new Regenerative Medicine Center, which will include scientists from the ISCR, the Roslin Institute, and the University of Edinburgh Medical School. Such investments are designed to strengthen the capabilities in basic research and its translation into clinical reality. Moreover, start-up companies are given the opportunity to build a solid foundation among an internationally acclaimed stem cell community.

Paul De Sousa, MD, formerly of Roslin Institute, recently relocated to the University of Edinburgh, where he is focusing on developing good manufacturing practice (GMP) procedures for human embryonic stem cell derivation. In September 2006, with financial backing from Scottish Enterprise, Dr. De Sousa and colleagues launched Roslin Cells (www.roslincells.com), which aims to advance stem cell research in Scotland and abroad by making it more economical to purchase lines derived using GMP procedures.

Prior to his involvement with Roslin Cells, Dr. De Sousa successfully created human embryos through virgin conception (i.e., parthenotes) and was granted a human-cloning license, along with Ian Wilmut, by the UK's Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (www.hfea.gov.uk).

International companies are also expanding into Scotland to utilize the expertise offered by research institutes, universities, and the industry as a whole. For those looking to take advantage of Scotland's major stem cell and life sciences laboratories, access is easy, with 80% of the entire life sciences industry within a 50-mile radius of three of the country's main cities—Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee.

Scottish stem cell excellence

Stem cell research and manufacturing powerhouses, such as Stem Cell Sciences Ltd (www.stemcellsciencesltd.com), CXR Biosciences (www.cxrbiosciences.com), Invitrogen (www.invitrogen.com), Angel Biotechnology (www.angelbio.com), and Geron Corporation (www.geron.com), are prime examples of world-renowned companies conducting research in Scotland.

Also instrumental to Scotland's success is an organization that unites those interested in or conducting this type of research. The Scottish Stem Cell Network (SSCN, www.sscn.co.uk), launched in 2003, brings together scientists and clinicians to improve the rate at which laboratory research translates into therapeutic benefits for patients. The SSCN works with the entire stem cell community in Scotland, including academic institutions and clinical and industry-based research groups, and also provides international organizations with easy access to stem cell researchers in Scotland. Another unique feature about the SSCN is the organization's role in engaging the general public to participate in open debates on issues deemed controversial with regards to this type of research.

Scotland is an ideal location in which to conduct stem cell research, with a powerful life sciences research and technology base and an equally supportive regulatory environment. Through advanced research led by globally respected stem cell experts and advanced facilities, Scotland is poised to continue to lead the way in the biomedical applications of cell biology.